According to Mark: Act 1, Scene 1 (Opening Credits, or “Fuck You, Caesar, There’s a New Sherriff in Town”)

Joel Michael Herbert
10 min readMay 1, 2024

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Presenting the Good Announcement of Jesus the Anointed One, the Rightful King of the World:

It is written by Isaiah the Ancient Sage,

“Look, and see
I am sending to thee
A messenger before thy face
Preparing thy way
A voice in the desert
Make ready for the Lord
The pathways of justice
For the King of the World”

Johan the Baptizer appeared in the desert wastelands and began proclaiming that the time had come — calling everyone, slaves, common people, and aristocrats alike — to Change Their Minds, to turn from their selfish ways, and to receive forgiveness of the shame and guilt of their misdeeds through a ritual cleansing in the Jordan River, the ancient place where the children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land from their slavery in Egypt.

The bustling metropolis of Jerusalem and the smaller city of Jericho were both nearby, so pilgrims arrived in droves to be baptized by Johan, making vows to God and coming up out of the Jordan River, like Na’aman the Syrian so many centuries ago, washed of their filth and committed anew to pursuing the Divine Kingdom — a life of justice and shalom.

Now Johan was a sight to see, a real ascetic prophet type, if there ever was one. He wore a tunic made of camel hair, a homemade leather strap around his waist, barely holding everything together, and anyone only ever saw him eating live locusts and wild honey — how he got a hold of either of these items was anybody’s guess. His appearance and demeanor played into the Samson-Elijah motif, the wild men and great deliverers of Israel of ancient times.

Johan was embracing the messianic-apocalyptic fervor that had gripped Judea and Galilee at the time, but he was also very clear that he wasn’t The One. “There is Someone coming much more powerful than I!” he would bellow in his fiery sermons, between his invectives against the corrupt priestly class in Jerusalem and his fearless skewering of Rome and their cruel, decadent puppet kings in the region. “I’m not even worthy to bend down and untie his sandals like the lowliest servant. Yes, I am baptizing you in water as a ritual cleansing, but this is just a precursor. When he comes, he will immerse us all in the Ruach HaKo’desh, the Holy Spirit that inspired and led the prophets!”

It was in those days that a man named Y’shua, a carpenter from Nazareth in the northern region of Galilee, came to the River as a pilgrim to be immersed by Johan. When he came up out of the muddy waters, Y’shua saw a vision — it was as if Heaven opened up, the Ruach lighting on him like a Dove, and he heard a Voice, so loud it was almost Audible, “Y’shua, you are my Beloved, my Son, in whom I take great delight — this Day I have named you my unique Heir.” Y’shua rose, wordlessly walked deeper into the water, eastbound instead of back toward Jerusalem with the rest of the pilgrims. He crossed the River and disappeared into the Desert, as if driven by a Force no one else could see.

No one saw him for forty days. He spent the time in the wilderness, alone with his demons, wrestling with what he had just experienced, with no one but the wild animals and angels to keep him company.

Not long after these things, the Galilaean tetrarch Antipas, son of the Hasmonean pretender, “King of the Jews,” and Roman sychophant Herod the Great, had Johan taken into custody. Y’shua took up Johan’s mantle, heading north directly into Antipas’ territory, announcing the good tidings of the Reign of God in the towns and villages there, saying, “the clock has run out and the time is now. God’s Kingdom is here, right here, right now — the True Empire, the Kingdom of love and justice and peace and truth. Open your mind to receive and trust in this good story!”

One day, Y’shua was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and saw two fishermen brothers, Shimon and Andreas, casting a net into the shallows and fishing, not far from shore. Y’shua called out to them, “Ho! Follow me, and we will up the ante from gathering fish to gathering people into the Divine Kingdom!” Andreas and Shimon looked at each other, excitement building, a knowing look passing between them as they realized who the man was and what he was inviting them into. “I mean…” Andreas began, “this is what we’ve always wanted to do, right?” Shimon laughed. “Anything to get out of this hot sun! I don’t want to do this shit for the rest of my life! I say let’s throw in our lots with the Rabbi!”

They both dove in the water and swam to shore, leaving their nets and boat behind. The three of them walked down to the next dock, Andreas and Shimon soaking wet but drying quickly in the desert sun. Their friends and fellow fishing co-op members, Ya’akov and Yohannan, brothers working in their father’s fishing business, were working in their own boat, patching up their nets with their father Zebedee, who owned the business. Y’shua also called out to them, and they ditched their father right then and there with his hired men, and followed Y’shua as well.

They all went into Kaphar-Nahum, the village close by. That Shabbat, they all went into the local synagogue to worship. Since Y’shua had been away for so long, they gave him the scroll and had him give the derasha. Everyone was blown away. His teachings were unique, powerful, and alive. He spoke like he really knew the words themselves, like they were his old friends, instead of what they were used to from the Torah teachers that came through from time to time, most of them brilliant but heady, self-important, dry and dusty professor types. Y’shua, by contrast, reminded them of Rabbi Hillel, who had passed away some years before, who taught with the authority of the sages and prophets, not just rehashing the same endless arguments and interpretations over and over again.

Suddenly a man appeared in the door of the synagogue, wild, deranged and clearly in a mental health crisis, gripped with a spirit of madness. He locked eyes with Y’shua and growled at him. “What are you doing here, Y’shua of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know you — you are the Holy One come from the Divine Realm!”

Y’shua set down the scroll and, without missing a beat, calmly walked up to the poor man, and quietly rebuked whatever was manifesting through him. “Shut up, stop tormenting him, and let him go.” The man threw himself on the floor and went into convulsions, cried out with an ear-splitting scream, then suddenly became silent and peaceful.

The people of Kaphar-Nahum were flabbergasted, and Y’shua became the talk of the town that week. “What in the world was that?” they were saying. “We haven’t been that captivated by a derasha in years! So powerful! And then the poor man that has been suffering with that hopeless madness for so long — did you hear what the Rabbi said to him? He just spoke something simple — didn’t even touch him or shout at him like the traveling exorcists always do — and his madness just… vanished!”

Needless to say, word spread quickly, and Y’shua was suddenly locally famous. After the incident at the synagogue, they all went to Shimon and Andreas’ house for refreshment and to finish Shabbat together. When they arrived, Shimon’s wife met them at the door. “I’m so sorry, boys. There’s no dinner prepared. My mother fell ill yesterday with a horrible fever. I don’t know what’s going on with her, but she’s really in a bad way. I’ve been taking care of her all day and last night. We’re all exhausted in here.” She sighed and turned with a weary shrug. “Good Shabbas, I guess.”

Shimon turned to Y’shua. “Is there anything you can do?” he asked hopefully. Y’shua walked in and saw her lying on the couch, miserable, sweating, shaking violently from the chills, and muttering in her sleep. He reached out and took her hand in his. He smiled gently at her, then placed his hand on her forehead. Immediately her shaking stopped. Her eyes slowly fluttered open, and she breathed in sharply, recognizing his presence for the first time. “Oh, good Shabbas!” she said, as if just waking from a nap. “Goodness! is it nearly sundown already?” She bolted upright on the couch, looking from her daughter to Shimon and Andreas to Y’shua, Ya’akov and Yohannan, and back again. “Why did you let me sleep so long? We have a guest!” She stood quickly, wiping her brow. “Well, I guess that nap was all I needed. I feel marvelous!” She strode into the kitchen and began making dinner.

After havdalah at sunset, there was a knock at the door. Shimon opened it to find dozens of people gathered in front of his house, and what looked like the whole village beginning to gather from all directions. He recognized many of them — several chronically ill parents of friends, a handful of lame and blind beggars he recognized from the docks, as well as several more folks with various mental illnesses. Y’shua appeared behind him, his eyes taking in the scene. They looked at each other, it dawning on both of them at the same time that the events of the morning at the synagogue had unleashed something neither of them could control.

Y’shua stepped out, gesturing for his four young disciples to join him. He moved among the crowd slowly, as if unsure how to proceed. He touched every single person, his lips moving in silent prayer the whole time, a hush spreading over the crowd as if they were witnessing something beautiful and holy. Some he spent more time with than others, especially the ones in a disturbed mental state. Several times one of those people would start to shout at him like the man in the synagogue earlier, but he would silence them quickly and not allow them to speak. Shimon had the distinct sense that Y’shua did not want a repeat of the synagogue scene, when a crazy person with some kind of oracle from the spirit realm declared him to be the Chosen One. That sort of thing was simply asking for trouble from Rome.

The crowd eventually dispersed, every person with an ailment touched and healed, every restless and agitated person calmed. It was the holiest moment the young men had ever experienced, and everyone present seemed to realize they were a part of something unique and powerful. When the moon was high and everyone had gone home, they all stumbled into the house and crashed onto their bed mats, emotionally spent and mentally exhausted.

Andreas woke before the sun to find Y’shua missing. He quietly roused Shimon, Ya’akov and Yohannan, and they set off in search of him. Everywhere they went, someone would recognize them and ask where Y’shua was. They finally found him as the sun was rising, praying in a deserted valley not far from the village. “Rabbi, everyone is looking for you!” they told him. Y’shua did not answer, gazing off into the distance as if absorbing the energy of the Dawn. Yohannan quietly sat down next to Y’shua, imitating his meditative posture. The other three slowly joined, a sense of peace washing over them as they released the energy and wonder from the previous day together.

Finally Y’shua spoke, rising slowly to his feet. “Let’s move on. I want to visit the other villages around Galilee and proclaim the good news of the Divine Kingdom there. It’s what I’ve been sent here to do.”

So they did. They spent the next several weeks walking the entire region of the Galilee, giving derashas in synagogues each Shabbat. Everywhere they went they could feel the spirits lift, as if every entity with ill intentions was vacating, terrified by the presence of a Greater Power. The difference was palpable — it was as if Hope was alive again, after being dead so long no one remembered what it felt like anymore.

In one village, a man with a highly contagious leprous skin disease came before Y’shua, visibly distraught. He fell down on his knees before Y’shua, crying out, “Please, Rabbi! I know that if you want to, you are able to purify me according to the Torah! Please, sir! Would you be willing to help me?”

Y’shua looked deeply perturbed. “What do you mean, if I want to?” Y’shua reached out his hand and took the man’s hand, lifting him to his feet. “Of course I am willing! Be clean, and don’t — ”

The man shrieked loudly, the scales on his skin disappearing. A small crowd had begun to gather. He whirled around, his arms in the air, exultant.

“Hey!” Y’shua whispered fiercely, turning the man around to face him, looking him directly in the eyes. “This was for you, not for them. Do not breathe a word of this to anyone, do you understand me?” The man nodded, clearly confused. “I’m serious, friend,” Y’shua continued. “I’m not looking for trouble. Go to the priest in Sepphoris and present yourself to him, as the Torah requires, so you may be officially pronounced clean and come back to the village. Now go. And remember, not a word to anyone but the priest!”

The man nodded in agreement, but Shimon could tell there was no way he was going to keep it quiet. Before he was even out of earshot, they could hear him telling everyone what had happened. Y’shua sighed, “let’s go. We can’t stay here.”

But Y’shua’s fame outpaced him, and by the time they got to the next village that night, there was a crowd waiting for him. Everyone in the entire region, it seemed, had heard about him. They purchased tents and set up camp in the hills, in the unpopulated areas, but even there, people would somehow, inevitably, find them.

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Joel Michael Herbert

Husband. Father. Artist. Storyteller. Armchair Theologian. Advocate, activist and politician. Gryffindor. [neuro]Divergent.